Starters leaving Tigers in mound of despair

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Justin Verlander gave up five earned runs, three of those on home runs, on eight hits while striking out eight while walking none in six innings in a 10-4 to the Rangers Tuesday. His record falls to 8-8.

Arlington, Texas — Manager Brad Ausmus cut right to the chase after the 10-4 loss to the Rangers Tuesday.

“We just have to play better, simple as that,” he said. “We have to pitch better, hit better, manage better and coach better. Because this ain’t going to cut it for the next month and a half. I will tell you that.”

For the sixth straight game, the starting pitching put the team in a hole. Over this last spin through the rotation — six starts including Drew VerHagen’s last fill-in outing — Tigers starters have allowed 32 runs and 11 home runs in 29⅔ innings.

“The pitching’s been bad overall,” Ausmus said. “We’re giving up home runs, walking too many guys. Pitching and defense wins games. 
But bad pitching is instrumental in losing games. And we’re not pitching well.”

It was Justin Verlander’s turn to get beat up Tuesday. He’d been the exception to the rule in his five previous starts — posting a .181 opponent’s batting average, 1.80 ERA and 0.91 WHIP.

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But he gave up three home runs and allowed five runs in six innings.

The Tigers, who broke on top 1-0 on an RBI double by Jose Iglesias in the second inning, began chipping away against the Rangers’ bullpen in the seventh.

Right-hander Tony Barnette replaced starter A.J. Griffin (five innings, one run). After a scoreless sixth, he walked Victor Martinez and gave up a double to John Hicks (his second double).

Ground outs by Alex Presley and Iglesias plated two runs, cutting the Rangers lead to 5-3.

But the Rangers, and pesky Roughned Odor, broke their backs in the bottom of the seventh.

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Right-hander Joe Jimenez walked Odor to lead off the inning. Odor, who stole two bases and scored three times on Monday, promptly stole second and went to third on catcher Hicks’ throwing error.

It looked like the Tigers would wiggle out of it. Jimenez struck out Robinson Chirinos and got Delino DeShields to fly out to shallow right field. Ausmus then brought in left-hander Daniel Stumpf to face left-handed hitting Shin-Soo Choo.

With a 1-2 count on Choo, Odor broke for the plate and scored well ahead of Stumpf’s throw. It was ruled that Stumpf balked, not a steal of home.

“People don’t try to steal home very much, but you can’t ever not be aware of the baserunners,” Ausmus said. “You have to be aware of where the baserunners are and what they are doing.”

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Stumpf, though, doesn’t believe he balked. He even went back to review the video to confirm it.

“You don’t need to stop when you step off the rubber,” Stumpf said. “I stepped off the back of the rubber. I got lazy, I guess. I was focusing on the hitter and I didn’t look over at him. But I went back and looked at it. I stepped off the back of the rubber.

“You can call it a balk or whatever, but I stepped off the back of the rubber and my front leg didn’t move until I stepped off.”

Umpire and crew chief Ted Barrett called the balk.

“He didn’t come set,” Barrett explained to a pool reporter. “He still has to come set, because unless he steps off, and then he becomes a fielder. But in this situation, he still has the duties of coming set or any other obligation.”

It became moot, though. The Rangers blew the game open with four runs in the bottom of the eighth off Warwick Saupold.

“We have a lot of inexperienced guys in the bullpen and they’re going to be called upon to do stuff they haven’t done in the big leagues, under the brighter spot light,” Ausmus said. “They need to step up to it.”

Twitter: @cmccosky